Well, I guess he's ready.
The Cubs, having been swept in Pittsburgh, apparently felt they needed a "spark", so top prospect Starlin Castro was recalled from Double-A before yesterday's game.
A spark? The Cubs got a raging inferno. Castro tripled and homered in five at-bats and drove in six runs -- the most by anyone in his first major league game. Let's hope he has a better career than the other five Cubs who homered in their first major league at-bat (Paul Gillespie, Frank Ernaga, Cuno Barragan, Carmelo Martinez, and Jim Bullinger). Of those, only Martinez had any sort of decent major league career, and 98% of it was with other teams. The most home runs hit in a Cubs uniform by those five players was six (Gillespie and Martinez).
I'm pretty sure Castro will do better than that -- maybe by the All-Star break, at the rate he's going.
Paul Gillespie did have one distinction that we hope Castro matches -- he played in the World Series as a Cub (in 1945).
Castro's three-run homer in the second inning definitely seemed to inject some excitement into this lifeless team, as they then racked up eleven more runs between the third and the eighth, scoring a season-high 14 and beating the Reds 14-7. Marlon Byrd joined the homer parade with a two-run shot in the sixth and nearly had another one in the eighth -- his drive hit the yellow line in left field and was ruled a double by replay. After a walk, Mike Fontenot pinch-hit for Sean Marshall and decided to make that debate moot by hitting a grand slam (the Cubs' first pinch-slam since Derrek Lee hit one at Wrigley against the White Sox on May 19, 2007).
There were all kinds of numbers posted, broadcast and tweeted last night about Castro's spectacular debut. But this one is my favorite: he already has twice as many RBI this year as Ichiro.
Of course, this won't happen every day. If Castro goes 0-for-4 tonight, will there be calls to send him back down? Probably, although we hope those would only be in jest. Castro appears here to stay -- Ryan Theriot shifted effortlessly to second base, and that, according to Lou, makes Mike Fontenot the backup shortstop. That isn't how I'd do it -- if Castro needed a day off (and I wouldn't do that too often), just move Theriot back to SS for a day, and play Fontenot or Jeff Baker at 2B.
As I said, hopefully, that won't be needed too often. Castro made the most spectacular first-day Cub debut, probably, since Ron Santo, who debuted in a doubleheader on June 26, 1960, and in the two games went 5-for-7 with a double and five RBI. If he can have a career half as good as Santo's, we'll all be very pleased. (In addition to all the other distinctions, Castro also becomes the first major league player born in the 1990's.)
Among players who hit home runs in their first major league at-bats, their careers wound up all sorts of ways. Castro became the 107th player to accomplish this feat; looking over that list, we come across a bunch of "who's that?", and a few players who had decent major league careers, the best of which probably belong to Gary Gaetti, Tim Wallach, Will Clark, Carlos Lee and Jermaine Dye. Again, if Castro can come even close to those guys, we'd be fine with that, I think. Curiosity: the only Hall of Famer in the bunch is Hoyt Wilhelm, a pitcher who homered in his first ML at-bat and then never again.
About the rest of last night's game: Carlos Silva got hit pretty hard, allowing ten hits in five innings, including a home run to relief pitcher Micah Owings (who, granted, is a pretty good hitter) -- fortunately, it didn't matter, as by the time Owings homered in the fifth inning, the Cubs already had a 9-0 lead. Silva did throw strikes again last night; he'll need to keep the ball down in future starts to succeed. It was also nice to see Derrek Lee have a good day and show signs of breaking out of his slump; Geovany Soto had three hits (he barely missed a home run, too, when a fan reached over the yellow line and caught his ball in right field); if Geo had two more plate appearances, his .362 average would be second in the National League. And I'm going to join the call for Aramis Ramirez to get his eyes checked -- he's doing things (like that awful throw he made last night) that would indicate to me that he might be having trouble with his vision.
Finally, I know we're all excited about Starlin Castro. But there really was no need to start five separate threads about him last night. The four that were started after the first one weren't really necessary -- I left that one because one of them related to a topic that wasn't being discussed (about what ownership might do), and thanks to hansman1982 for posting a game thread when mine didn't post. But please, check the posting list first, and just post a comment when a topic like this is already being discussed -- otherwise, that pushes other good posts down the list and off the front page.
Thanks for understanding. And thanks to Starlin Castro... this season just got quite a bit more interesting.